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. and the experienced vice president richard nixon seemed uncomfortable, even sweaty. as the debate's producer, the late don hewitt, remembered. >> i looked at him on camera and i thought, oh, my god, this is trouble. >> reporter: the first lesson: the debates would not just be about what you said but how you looked when you said it. and mistakes could have huge consequences. in 1976 at the height of the cold war, president gerald ford mysteriously declared -- >> there is no soviet domination of eastern europe. >> reporter: he lost to jimmy carter. but in 1984, another incumbent, ronald reagan, used the debates to diffuse criticism of his advancing age. >> you already are the oldest president in history. >> reporter: he was 73 at the time. >> i am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. (laughter) >> "i was smiling" watt walter mondale later said "but i knew he'd gotten me there." other lessons, it may be best not to start your opening statement this way. >> who am i? why am i here? >> reporter: as admiral james stockdale, ross pro's running mate did, in 1992. d
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